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Learning activities

Our Australian climate has given rise to a rich tradition of picnicking. The activities below are designed to provide students with the skills to see how picnics have changed over time, what has changed and why these changes have occurred, using their own picnic experiences and those of parents and grandparents as a frame of reference.

The learning activities in this resource teach students to:

The slideshow below illustrates how picnics have changed over time.

A3 printouts

1. Observe and sequence


  • images from picnics set (click on the images above to enlarge for printing or display)
  • chalkboard or smart board for recording responses.


Introduce the idea of picnicking by engaging the students in a discussion.

  • What is a picnic?
  • Why do we go on picnics?
  • Who has been on a picnic?
  • What do we take?

Lead the students into considering whether picnicking has always been the same, and whether there have been any changes in where/how/why/what/who over time. Encourage them to suggest why changes may have occurred.

Present the selection of images to the students, one at a time, in no particular order. Have the students examine each image in detail, first of all compiling what they can see and then focusing on evidence that suggests what time period each image is from, using themselves/parents/grandparents/great grandparents as markers for how old or new the image may be.

The evidence may take the form of clothing, vehicles, picnic equipment/containers, settings, formal/informal poses, group sizes and food. Encourage the students to compare what they see in the images with what they know of picnics in their own lives.

Once the students have thoroughly investigated the separate images, ask them to arrange them into a broad timeline, from oldest to newest. Assist them in this aspect by suggesting that they look for similarities and differences that may help in establishing the timeline.

This part of the activity could be carried out by asking some students to each hold up an image (if using printed versions), in random order and having the other students arrange the students with their image in the timeline. Ask the students to justify the final timeline arrangement by explaining their choices and expanding on what they found out about the images through investigating them.

Encourage them to make a final assessment of their choices and perhaps make the timeline more permanent by putting the images (if printed) onto art paper, in order, and with text that might say 'Picnics — then and now' or 'Picnicking — old and new'.

2. Research and contextualise


  • images from the picnics set (click on the images above to enlarge for print or display)
  • large cardboard sheets for constructing a picnic investigation chart
  • marker pens or perhaps coloured shapes for use on the chart.


As a class, discuss: 'Are your picnics the same as picnics your mum and dad or grandma and grandpa would have had when they were young?' Encourage the students to consider this by examining the various components of a picnic — food, transport, picnic sets, locations, clothing, group sizes, games, links to celebrations, and so on.

Reinforce their examination by discussing elements visible in the picnic images. Ask students to look for aspects that appear to have changed over time and aspects that appear to be unique to each image. Encourage them to consider why there are changes, for example in the food, storage, transport, family structure and so on.

Ask the students to research by interviewing their parents/grandparents on the topic of picnics in their youth. Encourage the students to ask questions that cover some or all of the topics used in the class discussion. The students could use a common list of questions developed as a class. One question could be to request to borrow any images of picnics that the family member has.

Interviews could be documented in various ways:

  • If the interview is documented in writing, students could take notes as their interviewees talk, or their interviewees could write their own responses.
  • Some students might record their interview as audio or video and then choose one or two segments to share with the class.
  • Other students might document their interview as a collage, combining a selection of questions and answers, images of their parents or grandparents and representations of picnicking (drawings, magazine cut-outs etc). The students could use a range of fonts and visual design elements (colour, pattern, shape) to embellish their collages.

Once the students have conducted their research, arrange for time in class to hold a reporting/sharing session, and to aggregate the information they have generated through their individual research.

Prepare a large-format picnic investigation chart for the class. It could be a simple arrangement of vertical columns and horizontal rows. The rows could be marked with 'Grandparents', 'Parents' and 'Us'. Invite students to share the results of their individual research and as they do, assist them to identify various components of picnicking.

For example, they might identify 'hot food', 'cold food', 'barbeque', 'own car', 'public transport', 'big group', 'small group', 'formal clothing', 'casual clothing', 'metal cutlery', 'plastic cutlery', 'crockery', 'paper plates', 'games'. As an element is identified, have the student add it to the appropriate place on the chart.

Then, help students use the chart to interpret their findings. You might use coloured markers to add lines, arrows and circles to identify patterns — to indicate continuity and change, to group various elements together and to distinguish others. Ultimately the chart should indicate components that are common to picnics across generations and those that are unique to a particular time period.

3. Empathise and speculate


  • a random selection of images covering at least two generations
  • a bag
  • a set of small cards on which the names of picnic items will be written
  • art materials for a visual arts component
  • chalkboard or smart board for recording student responses.

Special preparation

Prior to engaging the students in this activity, look at each of the images selected and make a list of any foods, utensils, picnic furniture, vehicles, period-specific clothing, games, group sizes, specific locations etc that can be seen in each image.

Write each of these observations down individually on small cards, and put the cards into the bag. The cards and bag will be introduced in Step 3 of the activity.


1. Introduce the concept of a history of picnics by asking students what sort of things they do when they have a picnic. This may include games, travel, invitations, food preparation, eating, relaxing, talking, singing etc.

Encourage them to share picnic experiences and to describe them in regard to ‘who/what/when/where/why/how’.

2. Ask them if the experience of picnics has always been the same — are the picnics people have now the same as picnics in the past? Extend this line of questioning by encouraging them to come up with ways in which picnicking may have been different for their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents.

Some of these differences may include ease of getting to picnic areas, range of foods available, games or other pastimes that may have been played/enjoyed while picnicking, types of picnic areas and so on. Record their answers as they consider this.

3. Present the students with the random selection of picnic images. Tell them that you will be pulling cards out of the bag which relate to the images, and that you will be asking the students to work out which image corresponds to each card.

Continue until the bag is empty and all items/aspects have been assigned to appropriate images. Themes that could emerge from this activity include:

  • big/small families
  • past/present setting
  • formal/informal clothing
  • new/old vehicles
  • built picnic areas/natural bush settings
  • old/new picnic sets
  • old/new picnic utensils
  • formal/relaxed poses
  • familiar/unfamiliar foods.

4. Encourage the students to review their choices and discuss what it was about each item/aspect that suggested it belonged to a specific image. Assist them in assessing the evidence of each item/aspect (old/new, familiar/unfamiliar, materials, etc) and encourage them to consider what the items/aspects tell them about picnicking in the past and today.

5. Ask the students to consider what picnics may be like in the future — in 50, 100 or 200 years. Encourage them to consider the items/aspects that they have been discussing, and how changes in technologies and ways of living might influence change.

Assist the students to expand their considerations to include topics such as the environment, diet, transport, food storage, etc.

6. Ask the students to create visual art-based interpretations of their imagined picnics in the future. Encourage them to think about how they represent future technologies, clothes, transport, locations/environments, games, group poses etc.

7. Display the artworks when they are finished and encourage the students to compare the range of interpretations produced by the class, and perhaps look for similarities or common aspects in the artworks.

The discussion could also include the idea that the artworks produced by the students today might be used in 50 or 100 years, when Year 1 and 2 students of that time might be investigating what people in the past thought picnics might look like in the future.

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